Sunday, January 18, 2009

Conversion vs. Consecration

Conversion vs. Consecration

One early morning in July last year, while in prayer, I felt a striking impression in my spirit that the Body of Christ is entering into a threshold of a new season. Out of this season will spring forth many new opportunities, new ideals, and many things will take place without precedence. Above all, many souls will be ushered into the kingdom of God. However, simultaneously, two words keep emerging from my spirit – Evangelism and Consecration.

I perceived that in this new season, the work of evangelism will explode mightily and increase abundantly both in individual nations or cross cultural mission, however, consecration of lives unto the Lord will decrease. If we are not watchful, we will focus on results rather than radical devoted Christianity. This is the consequences of “partial conversion”, whereby minds have been instructed but hearts unchanged.

It will be quite sad if there are almost no discernable differences in the lives and value of Christians and unbelievers. If divorce rate, abortion rates, suicide rate and the data of adultery, fornication, or any ungodly behavior or habit and value are almost identical for both.
A true conversion to Christianity should result in a fundamental change of life and value we hold. But this is not the result in many cases. We have approached God as someone who could benefit our lives, rather than the creator worthy of our devotion and service. Many treat God as parachute in the plane. We know that we need to have one but at the same time hoping we will never need it to use it. As a result, we have just merely add God into our lives without Him in the equation in most of our decision making. We are motivated to think and act according to needs and pressure instead of godly principles. We have traded religion with the gospel of the Cross, a lives of surrendering to His plan and purpose for His kingdom.

Modern Samaritans

During the first century, the Samaritans were a greatly despised people by the Jews. At a glance, it may look like a cultural discrimination, but on scrutiny, the issue is much deeper . The Jews’ contempt for the Samaritans was sparked by the Samaritans’ attempt to add the worship of Jehovah into their idolatrous practices. They did not turn from their idolatry to serve Jehovah, but instead tried to make Jehovah exist among their idol gods.

During the reign of Solomon’s son, King Rehoboam, Israel was divided into two kingdoms. Samaria was established as the capital city of the northern kingdom called Israel, and Jerusalem the capital of the southern kingdom called Judah. Due to prolonged and persistent disobedience, judgment eventually fell upon the northern kingdom of Israel. The ten tribes of Israel were than taken captive by the Assyrians. This kingdom then repopulated the land of Israel with heathen from other nations (2 Kgs.17:24). And this people were later known as the Samaritans whom the Jews despised.

When the Samaritans tried to settle in Israel, the Lord sent lions among them, which killed some of the people. They became afraid and sought the counsel of the priest among the captive Israelites, who taught them how to honor God to remedy the problem (2 Kgs.17:25-28). However, the Samaritans never went on to encounter God themselves and love Him. They performed the rites of worship as prescribed by the priest, only to gain protection for themselves. Never did they abandon their idols or idolatrous practices, but added the worship of Jehovah to their lives.

“However, every nation continued to make gods of its own, and put them in the houses of the high places which the Samaritans had made, every nation in the cities where they dwelt…they feared the Lord, yet served their own gods…” (2 Kgs.17:29,33).

They only worship Jehovah as they did their idols, to get protection from the lions. The worship is motivated from self-centeredness rather than loving God. This unfortunately is an accurate portrayal of some of us today. We have added God into our lives to protect us against eternal judgment but without turning from self-centeredness. We worship God to gratify us rather that to glory Him.

This kind of worship is unacceptable to God. God wants us to know Him, and that’s why He sent His Son. Jesus came so that we can find eternal life. And eternal life is defined in the Bible as knowing the one true God and Jesus Christ.

“And this is the way to have eternal life – to know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth” (Jn.17:3)

When we truly know God and have an intimate relationship with Him, everything in this world pales in comparison. We will abandon our selfish pursuits in order to know Him more and consecrate our lives of devotion to Him.

Modern Pharisees

The first century Pharisees emerged as a righteous attempt to recovers a life separated to God, among the Israelites who returned from Babylonian captivity. In fact, the word Pharisees means “the separated”, and truly they had an admirable intention . However, they turned to God and the law, without also turning from themselves , from their self-centeredness. Their error was different from the Samaritans in that their intention were noble but they failed to understand that they could not please God with their dead works and religiosity.
They ended up with religious spirit without love and compassion. Overtime, the Pharisees almost completely lost sight of the essence of God and true worship. Although outwardly righteous in appearance, the Pharisees had ended up at the some place as the Samaritans – honoring God with the lips but having hearts that were distant from Him.

We need to search our hearts today. Is our lives of true devotion to Him and for his glory or are we like the Pharisees, full of the knowledge of the Word but yet with only a life of religiosity with hearts far away from Him. We are fill with the pride of self righteousness but without love and compassion. True godliness, produces an aura of warmth, radiates His glory in a manner which is inviting, never cold and forbidding.

Authentic Discipleship – Consecration

In order to build authentic disciple for Christ, the issue to consecration need to be address. We need to be careful how the Gospel is being presented to win souls for Christ. Many are given the impression that Christianity is all about gratifying us, God blessing us, healing us, providing for us, protecting us, etc. instead of we laying down our lives to glorify Him. However, the gospel can never be separated from the Cross – the cross of Jesus Christ, one who sacrifice the pain and humility for our sins and the cross we are called to carry each day of our lives to bring glory to His Name. If we are only tutor on the cross of Christ and to appropriate all that He had done for us, we only have half the gospel. We are called also to bear the cross and to have “the fellowship of His suffering”(Phil.3:10). Thus, let us consider on the subject of consecration.

“Go to the people and sanctify them …and let them wash their clothes” (Ex.19:10).

To consecrate means “to set apart”. God has bought the Israelites out of Egypt, but the people must get the Egypt out of them. Just as Israel consecrated themselves through the washing of their clothes (a symbol of removing the traces of Egypt in them) we are to cleanse ourselves of all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, to remove the stains of worldly influences over us.

Among us, there are many who are still soiled by the spirit of the world, filled with the desire for comforts, pleasures, and benefits of this world. Seeking the blessings of Jesus and the returns of the world at the same time. We have not come to be “not of the world” Paul gave a description of this generation in 2 Tim. 3:1-5, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God”

The way of Consecration

Ex.28 and Lev.8 detailed the consecration process for priesthood. Moses was instructed to put the blood of the animal offering on the tips of the right ears of Aaron and his sons, and on the thumbs of their right hands, and on the big toes of their right feet. This symbolizes thenceforth that Aaron and his sons will be set apart to stand in the position of a servant with ears that hear God’s voice, hands that do God’s will, and feet that walk in the plans and purposes of God.
Consecrating our lives means to set our lives apart for the glory of God. It involves doing what apostle Paul urged, “ I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifices…” (Rom.12:1). We are not called to just believe in Christ but to live for Christ. To lean our ears no more to the temptations of the world, to give our hands no more to empty ambitions, and to give our feet no more to pursue our own path of happiness. All in all, we are called to live but a life devoted to Christ.

To consecrate ourselves is to hand over our will, and do the bidding of God instead. It is saying, “Not my will, but Yours, be done.” And we do this because we love God. It is futile to talk about consecration apart from the love of God. When we love God, we will naturally incline ourselves towards consecration. The result is holiness, just as the Lord our God is holy.

The message for us is to wake up to repentance and consecration. We need to learned to consecrated ourselves afresh to Him, for His plan and purpose to work out in our lives.
Life is complicated in this modern world, however, it can make sample if we reduced to walking with God.

The Blessings of Consecration

As we saw earlier, the Old Testament described consecration as setting apart for holy service. However, in the New Testament, consecration is described as presenting ourselves as a living sacrifice unto the Lord (Rom. 6 &12).

In the Old Testament, though the entire nation of Israel was called by God, not everyone was called into consecration. Out of the twelve tribes of Israel, only the Levites were chosen for God’s work. And of them, only one family alone, the family of Aaron was consecrated. It was a special privilege to be called into consecration.

Today, through the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, we can all be partakers of this privilege. For in Christ, we are all called to be priest before Him like Aaron was
“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet.2:9).

Formerly, only the house of Aaron can be consecrated to serve the Lord, but now, we have all been purchased with the blood of Christ so that we may all be consecrated to serve Him. Therefore, we now have two reasons to consecrate ourselves for God. One is out of our love for God, and the other, out of our inherited privilege.

The word “service” means “waiting on” which means waiting on God in order to serve Him. Picture a servant waiting upon the master to receive orders of service. His vocation is to serve God. Likewise, our spiritual vocation in life should also be to serve God, and our physical vocation becomes secondary to that.

In all that we do, we must not forget that our main call is to be obedient to the voice of God and seek to do His will and complete His plans and purposes. Like Aaron, our ear, thumb and toe ought to be set apart for God.

As a final word, consecration is not about doing a favor for God. It is God granting us the privilege to live for Him and serve Him. In the Old Testament, only Aaron and his sons were chosen. But now, for all who believe, we have been called into the royal priesthood of Christ. It is our call to stop perpetuating the generation of Samaritans and Pharisees. We are called to be salt and light to the world, let us not be stumbling blocks. When we live consecrated lives unto God, we can then fulfill the Great Commission to disciple the nations and lead them to consecrate themselves unto God.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, ...teaching them to observe (to be obedient to) all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen” (Matt.28:19-20) .

Our goal is not only converted Christians but consecrated disciples for Christ. Amen!

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